Friday, 4 March 2011

Statistics that make you shudder

Sometimes you see something in the press and you think:”that can’t be right”. Apparently 58% of mobile operators think that SMS and MMS advertising will grow massively in the next few years.

I started working on MMS and SMS information products around eight years ago. Either the advertising industry is very slow or this seems a ridiculous statement.

Mobile phones are becoming a vital way of communication for us but it seems overly simplistic to think that this means its rich pickings for advertisers.

The attraction must be the high usage from the small device in our pockets. The technology means we can now stream video, share photos, send emails, create documents or update social media sites easily on a reasonably priced handset. All of these functions are available on mid-range phones and affordable tariffs. You don’t really need an iPhone, whatever the Apple marketing implies.

If you’re accessing it regularly, then it’s prime advertising space. The traffic on a mobile website is no different than putting a billboard on the heavy traffic of a trunk road.

But a mobile phone is also something personal. Money is spent personalising them whether it’s a stylish leather case, a wallpaper, screensaver or ringtone. The photos on the phone are personal, often of loved ones and days out with them. You wouldn’t tend to share the whole contents of your texts or voice messages, particularly if you’re a premiership footballer. This is where the problem is.

Why would anyone open their phone up to SMS and MMS adverts? How would companies find the numbers? At the end of the day all of these adverts are SPAM and defeat the whole object of the exercise.

Modern marketing is looking to engage customers and communities. Nothing would alienate me more than getting an MMS message clogging up my in box. By spamming, the numbers game becomes more of an issue. What proportion of your customer base will shut off communicating with you compared with those who chose to look further into the offer.

The other question is what will these companies be selling? Email spam is mainly adult in nature and I’m not sure I’d want my children receiving them on a phone in years to come. If it’s the sort of companies who send junk mail through your door, it would be an annoyance for me.

I’m open to advertising if I get something of value. Banner ads can be annoying, but it enables game apps like Angry Birds to be offered free. Information and news can also be valuable, but I’d suggest most message based advertising is nothing but worthless.

Let us make it clear that the same survey suggested 66% saw a growth in marketing coupons and vouchers. I can understand this. An opt-in system would enable you to become brand loyal and would mesh nicely with other social media platforms, particularly location based. It’s not for everyone, but vouchers are already popular using q-codes or unique passwords to gain access to special deals.

I still go back to my earlier point. If advertisers and mobile operators haven’t been able to make it work in eight years, what’s changed? Or do analysts play with stats and see pound signs before they engage their brains.

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